In 1955 Pittsburgh, there was an accident in a steel Mill. Perhaps there were lots of accidents in steel mills during that time, but this one changed the perspective on race in one man’s mind. Billy was working a fire in the mill. To make the fire hotter, a kind of lacquer was added to...
We’ve talked about why it’s important to serve (see Serving Part 1 here), and hopefully by now you’ve decided that either you need to start serving, or you just need to serve more. Most of us are in one of these two boats. There are a few people who serve a lot of their...
In that moment when hate was overcoming me the Lord broke through and began to work on my heart. I felt as though He was asking me, "Why is your heart so wicked?" I began to place the blame on the individual who's words hurt me. I felt that my feelings were justified. I felt the Lord speak again...
The end of August is synonymous with back to school. This one event affects a vast majority of the population. Children, teens, young adults, teachers, parents - everyone jolted from the ease of summer to the demands of the school year. There are a whirlwind of activities that surround this...
Why is it so difficult to have real conversation about our personal relationship with Jesus, especially with non-believers? When given the opportunity, we are quick to say that God has incredible power to transform lives, but we belittle the example of transformed life that we know the most...
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) There is hope, even in these turbulent times. The spirit of the world is divisive, angry, hateful and racist. Those forces can deeply...
Following one of the most controversial election cycles in modern history, where the political drama was only amplified by the voices of our friends and family online, the social media bashing of one another’s views has not stopped. It’s easy to get swept away in it all. Convictions...
To live as followers of Jesus, we must not ignore the example Jesus set. Jesus didn’t talk about religion in buildings. He didn’t spend his time in Torah studies discussing the merits of this teacher or that. Those things have their place…but more often than not during his...
In the next 15 seconds, name as many ways as you can think of that other people show they love you. Ready? Go… What did you come up with? If you are like me maybe things like, they are kind and considerate, they do things for me, they say they love me, they give hugs, they bring...
People are apprehensive about serving at church. I know this because I’m one of them. After all, who doesn’t want to enjoy as much of their weekend as they can in relaxation, right? Volunteering to spend all day Sunday at church can seem really daunting. The thing is, if we call...
As a child, I never worried about living without my family. My parents were always around, I had my sister, and we would visit our extended family every year. I have so many fond memories as a child, playing with my cousins at my grandma’s house, going fishing with my dad, or baking cookies with my mom. I realize that not everyone may have these exact same memories, but I do believe that they are fairly similar to memories that many others share.
As I grew older, these kinds of experiences occurred less and less often. I became more and more independent, and family became something that I simply took for granted. They were still there, but I wasn’t. That is to say, I was absent in the sense that I wasn’t as interested in doing all the things that I had done as a kid. When I joined the military when I was 20, this was confounded even more because I literally wasn’t around anymore. I shipped off to Texas for several months for training, and then I moved to Germany right after. I took my wife Rachel with me to Germany, so luckily I had someone, but besides her, there was no one else. We spent three years there and then we moved to Guam for another three years.
Suffice it to say, being halfway around the world from your family takes its toll on you. The things that I took for granted in my late teens became the things that I missed most in my mid-twenties and now into my thirties. I miss just hanging out with my dad watching football games, or going to the movies. I miss grabbing a coffee and talking about life with my mom. I miss spending time with my grandparents, who also live where my parents do. My wife and I have missed so many life events because we’ve been geographically separated from our families for so long – the deaths of close relatives, family vacations, and holiday gatherings just to name a few. Family has also been absent for the births of all of our three children.
I’ve found myself missing all of that, especially the small things, a whole lot more in the past few years. It’s been so much so that I applied to get out of the military early so that we could move back home and be closer to family. I was very hopeful that things would work out, trusting God and praying that whatever happened was where he wanted me to be. Though I was expecting a ‘yes’ to my application, that was not what I received. I was sorely disappointed, but luckily for me I’ve grown a lot over the past 5-6 years, and was able to accept the fact that this was where God wanted us for the time being.
This was around the beginning of October, and about a month and a half later God showed me something that I hadn’t seen before…
My little family was prepared to spend another holiday together, just the five of us. Sometimes for Thanksgiving we hang out with friends, and on several occasions, we’ve had friends over at our house. I think for most military families this is common, though we do know quite a few people around here who have family close by, which has made it a bit more difficult for us.
This year we were invited over to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving, and there were several other church families who we knew well who were also going. When we got there, there were about twenty or so people, with a mix of our friends, and a mix of the host’s family as well. By the time everyone had shown up, there must have been around fifty people including kids. To be frank it was chaos – a beautiful, turkey and stuffing-smelling, love without limits kind of chaos. After we prayed and everyone started getting their food, I just had to stand back and soak it in for a minute.
This was when it hit me…
Even though we didn’t have ‘blood’ family around to celebrate the holidays with, we still had family. I took a picture and shared the post on Facebook because I wanted to capture the moment, and I wanted others to see that the family of God can make a big difference when you’re feeling lonely and separated from your own kin.
As a military family, being separated from relatives is something that we’re quite used to, though the feeling of missing them never really goes away. As we’ve allowed God in our lives more, he’s given us good friends to help fill the void of missing our families. Of course, it’s not an exact replacement – no one can ever do that. But, it’s about as close as you can get to the real thing. And for many people out there who may not share a strong bond with their families, perhaps it could even feel like a suitable replacement altogether. When you have God in your heart, and when you allow others into your life, then God will bring people to you to build you up and be there for you when you need them. And the great part is, no matter where you go, there will always be someone there as long as you’re open and paying attention.
Another great thing about the family of God is that it’s always growing, and we can always add more brothers and sisters! This family crosses boundaries that blood typically does not – race, skin color, culture, as well as many other things! You will meet people you probably wouldn’t have normally, and it will make you a better for it. You will grow as a person, and you will grow in your faith.
With God as our Father, and countless brothers and sisters surround us everywhere we go, there’s no need to ever feel alone. If you do feel lonely, perhaps you only need to look around and realize, as I did, that you are surrounded by more family than you think you are.
If you don’t know about the joys of a family shared through Christ, then we invite you to attend Severn Run (if you live in the Baltimore-D.C. area), or otherwise look for a local church to get connected to. Wherever you go, if they make you feel like family, then you know you’re probably home.
And if that’s the case, then…
…welcome to the family!
Have you ever asked yourself that ever-unanswered question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” Well, don’t get your hopes up, because I’m not here to answer that—we just don’t have enough room on the internet to tackle it.
However, I can tell you how God works through bad things that happen…
He works through his people! And about a month ago, Severn Run had a taste of this. Here’s what happened:
It was a typical Tuesday morning when some of the Severn Run staff came in to work. It was shortly after the New Year, and it was quite frigid outside. As to be expected, there was some ice in the parking lot of church campus. However, on this particular day, there was a large cascade of ice flowing down from Severn Run’s back entrance into the parking spaces nearby. It was quickly obvious that this wasn’t just ice from the previous night’s cold temperatures.
As some of the staff members investigated the interior of the church building, they discovered more ‘fun’ surprises. It seemed that Severn Run had gotten an unexpected pool installed in the whole first floor of the building! Ok, so it wasn’t a pool, but there was about two inches of water across the entire first floor of the building.
After calling the local water damage experts, the Severn Run staff began the tedious task of moving everything off the first floor that wasn’t tacked down. It was a LOT of work, but since it was the middle of the week, pretty much anyone who could help was already at the church building. After a lot of sweat, and maybe a few tears, it was eventually all done. The workers showed up later to start removing all the water and doing what needed to be done to set the church building up for repair down the road. This would be where the lovely ‘airflow upgrades’ around the base of all the walls on the first floor of the building came from. Perhaps you’ve noticed?
By the time all the water was extruded from the floor and carpet on the first floor of the Severn Run campus it was Friday, and the Severn Run staff had to move everything back into place to prepare for the services on Sunday. Quite a daunting task. But, this is where God came in!
The invite went out to most of the church via social media, and oh boy did people respond! The re-setup of the church campus was scheduled for Saturday morning starting at 9 AM. When I arrived (slightly late) there were already about 30-40 people there. There was a desk up front for people to sign in and get assigned to teams, which would tackle different places around the church campus that needed help.
Pastor John, our Executive Pastor, was giving a quick pep talk before we got started. He spoke briefly of how they discovered the water, and how excited he was to see so many people there to give up their Saturday to help prepare the building to house services on Sunday. He spoke of how important it was for us to come together because he knew that God had big plans. There were people who needed to have a place to sit on Sunday morning so they could focus on a message that God had specifically crafted for them to hear. It was inspiring to think about how such a simple thing as giving up a few hours of our weekend could have an eternal impact on the Kingdom!
Once Pastor John finished, off we went. It was a furious task to get the building back into a prepared state for Sunday, but we had a lot of help, as more people came in to support. It was probably 50 or 60 people in total.
Many people went inside the Worship Center to set up the chairs – one of the biggest tasks to do in preparation for Sunday. Other groups went to help put the kids’ areas back into place, while others helped remove trash, set up other areas, or go outside to start chipping away (literally) at the ice arena in the parking lot.
It took about three to four hours for just about all the work to be finished. The ice took the longest, and wasn’t even completely done by the time we all called it quits, but enough of it had been removed to allow people to drive through, park, and walk safely into the church building on Sunday.
Sunday morning came, and the services ran without a hitch. If you attended that day and had no idea about the escapades of the previous week, about the only way you would have known would have been those ‘airflow upgrades’ that I mentioned earlier, which that are still there. Well, that and the fact that we told everyone who attended, or who viewed our services online that day. But, we told everyone because we wanted them to know that when we needed help, God responded by bringing Severn Runners in to have our back.
And, that’s exactly what God does when bad things happen.
No one can say what exactly God will or will not do when it comes to allowing bad things to happen, but it has been evident since creation that when they do happen, he calls people to respond. The pipe’s bursting at Severn Run, followed by water damage, may not fully qualify as something ‘bad’, but no matter how big or small, God responds. Sometimes God calls on others, and other times he calls to us each individually. How we respond is completely up to us. We just have to decide if we’re going to be willing.
God works through his people. Are you willing to let him use you?
Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)
There is a difference between doing and being. More than the obvious differences of activity and rest—there is a spiritual difference.
Doing is about appearances. It’s about activity. It’s about the outward and the effort. Doing is “religion.”
Going to church because you’re supposed to.
Reading the Bible and praying because it’s on your list.
Joining a small group because you’ll look like you’re doing what you’re supposed to do.
Serving because it looks good on your resume.
Man is not justified by works. “Doing” for the sake of redemption does nothing but keep us busy, bothered, and stressed. Doing makes us think that we are in control of our destiny, our purpose, and our salvation. Doing keeps us focused on self instead of God.
Doing does not justify. Doing is empty and broken trying desperately to be something.
Being is about presence. It’s about the inward. It’s about your motivation. The dictionary defines being as, “having the state, quality, identity, nature, role, of something specified.” Being aligns your identity, your nature, your role, to Jesus. Being is relationship.
Being changes your purpose and motivation.
So instead of just going to church, you go to be with Jesus.
Instead of reading the Bible and praying because it’s on your list, you do it to be closer to God.
Instead of being in a connect group for appearances, you go to be with other believers.
Instead of serving to build your resume, you serve to be like Jesus.
This week, instead of thinking about what you are doing, ask yourself what you are being.
Are you being close to Jesus?
Are you being Jesus to others?
Are you…being the difference?
This post was originally published on the Collide Youth Blog but is a good reminder about how Scripture can help encourage us when we are tempted or fall short of our goals.
Happy New Year!
As 2018 approaches, the whole world celebrates the coming of a new year, and with that, comes New Year’s resolutions. The whole point of making resolutions is to become a better person in some way, which might mean losing a bad habit, or making better habits, or anything along those lines. And man is that difficult!
We face challenges every day from outside sources that are mostly beyond our control like schoolwork, jobs, relationships with family and friends, sicknesses, annoying people, and busy schedules. And then there are the challenges that we find within ourselves, like having a habit of lying, being tempted to sin, not holding your tongue, or feeling hatred towards someone. And those inner challenges can be the hardest to change. But what better time to deal with them than at the start of a new chapter in our lives? Hence, New Year’s resolutions.
So, what’s your resolution? Do you want to be a better Christian, sibling, student, daughter or son? Have you resolved to stop cursing, eating junk food, watching so much TV, or practicing some sin? Have you resolved to exercise more, share the Gospel more, be kinder to your little brother, be on time for things, READ more (because reading is great), or strive to do your very best in everything you do?
You may be wondering if the Bible actually says anything about this kind of stuff. Of course, it does! I thought I would share some Scriptures for you to consider when you experience moments that challenge your New Year’s resolution; moments of weakness, or temptation, or when you feel like giving up (because you will feel like giving up).
Choose the ones that fit your needs, and then to help remember them, write them on a sticky note, save them as notes to your phone, make them your screensaver, or even simply commit them to memory!
When you are tempted to flip out on someone
James 2:19 “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”
When others are not supportive of your resolution
1 Timothy 4:12 “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”
When you think negative thoughts about others
Colossians 3:12 “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
Philippians 2:3-5 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”
When you feel your mouth (cursing, eating, lying) your body, or your desires (alcohol, shopping, violence, drugs, sex, food, etc.) are out of control
Colossians 3:5:10 “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”
Note: It’s important to remember that TEMPTATION IS NOT A SIN. Even Jesus was tempted in Matthew 4. But it’s also important to remember that temptation is what leads to sin, and has to be resisted. James 4:7, “So humble ourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
When you think negative thoughts about yourself
Philippians 4:8 “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
When you fail or feel defeated and you want to give up on your resolution
Galatians 6:9 “So, let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
When you feel too timid to share your faith
2 Timothy 1:7-8 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.”
When you are doubting God because of bad life experiences
Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me”
When you are not sure that God will help you
Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I can’t say it any better than this from the book of Ephesians:
“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we[d] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:11-17
As Barbara Martin walked into the church building on Sunday, she was approached by her husband, Youth Pastor Chris Martin. He made her aware that the youth team traveling to the Dominican Republic was in need of a female chaperone.
She politely declined.
Barbara Martin did not want to go to the Dominican Republic (DR). She had no interest in the heat, the bugs, and the number of out-of-her-comfort-zone experiences there would potentially be on the trip.
She walked through the doors of the worship center and find her seat. Unbeknownst to her, God had called Pastor Drew to share about missions. During that time, Barbara felt the Lord tugging at her heart and knew that he was calling her to meet the need for a female chaperone. She walked out of the worship center that morning and into the commitment to go with the youth mission team to the DR.
The team spent their days in the Dominican Republic building a house for a woman and her children. Barbara said that children came from all over to witness the work being done. She and some of the team were able to love on the neighborhood children while work on the house was being completed. The children had dirty clothes and most had no shoes. The team handed out snacks to the children and to most, it was a precious gift.
Barbara saw dirty clothes, dirty children, mud walled houses, the heat from the stove where the fire was fed all day, more dirt, bugs, dirt that became mud when it rained, rain that did not cool the air but instead made it more oppressive, sewage that began to mingle with rivers of mud that flowed around and sometimes through the houses, more dirt, and more heat.
To be honest, little about the trip was enjoyable for Barbara.
However, God spoke very clearly to her about several things.
Sometimes, when we answer God’s call, like Barbara did to go on the trip, we believe that since we’re being obedient everything will be sunshine and roses. We think that beautiful blessings will flow out of God’s abundant love for us and it will be the best experience EVER because we are in God’s will for our lives! But, that’s not always the case – at least in terms of sunshine and roses. Paul, for example, was obedient to God’s call and he ended up in many uncomfortable places, not the least of which was prison.
But our work for God is not in vain.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:58)
God used Barbara’s experience in the DR to teach her about gratitude and dependence on Him.
Barbara witnessed the woman’s house being built and saw how she and others in the community were so dependent on God for EVERY THING. Barbara realized that in our blessed, American lives where so much comes easily, she is often not dependent on God for 30 minutes, much less dependent on him to provide everything and meet all her needs.
“The more (stuff) I have, the more I take for granted and the more I don’t depend on God,” Barbara said.
Barbara does not want to go back to the Dominican Republic. It was not a “fun” experience, but perhaps her obedience enabled the Lord to reach her on a level, out of her comfort zone, that she would not have allowed him to penetrate from the comfortable surroundings of the familiar.
In the dirt, heat, and discomfort of a foreign country, God showed her she should be doing much more at home. Barbara changed her perspective on missions and learned that she doesn’t have to go to the DR to make big changes for the kingdom of Christ. There is much to do in her community and in the lives of people she comes into contact with every day that will bring others closer to Him.
If you find yourself serving in a way that you don’t enjoy, ask God what he is teaching you. Then seek out somewhere you can serve that better meets your gifts. And remember that nothing we do for the Lord is in vain.